There are many different theories out there that attempt to explain why successful people are in fact, successful. However, building an environment for success rarely comes into consideration.
When you picture someone successful, you no doubt picture them having an endless, mystical source of motivation. It’s raining, it’s freezing cold but that person is still going to go for their early morning run.
You also tend to picture a successful person as someone who has a really charismatic personality. No matter the day, rain or shine, they are going to be cracking jokes on stage. They are going to be telling you that everything is going to be alright. Successful people somehow always seem to have their shit together.
Then when it comes to success, there is also the complicated question of luck or chance or fate, whatever you choose to call it. Most successful people will admit they have had a slice of it – some bigger than others.
While all of these factors are certainly part of the recipe for success, there is one special type of glue that holds them together. One essential element that allows things like motivation, charisma and ‘luck’ to all play much bigger parts than they otherwise would. A factor, that unlike most of the others, can actually be controlled most of the time.
That special ingredient is ‘environment’.
The environment isn’t just that thing we need to be saving really soon, it is also the often-overlooked catalyst of everything good (or everything bad) that you do.
No doubt you will have experienced or known someone who has taken a turn for the worst due to mingling with the wrong crowd. Or someone who has massively turned things around and excelled as soon as their environment changed.
They do say that you are the average of your 5 closest friends.
The optimal environment for your own growth and success isn’t just restricted to the people that you share your life with, it also goes for the physical state of the room that you wake up in, the mental state you cultivate through things like journaling and much, much more.
Without a beneficial environment to thrive in, there is no amount of motivation or charisma or luck or whatever else to pull you through to where you need to be. You might get a surcharge of progress, but nothing sustainable ever grows from a poor environment.
With that in mind, here is a list of some of the best things that you can do in order to construct your own environment for success:
Automate your good decisions
I don’t know about you, but I find the use of willpower absolutely exhausting.
I liken it to the use of the force in Star Wars or the powers of Eleven in Stranger Things. It takes an awful lot of effort to use for forces of good. And when it is spent, I need a lie-down.
Therefore it makes no sense to be using your willpower all day every day, trying to force great decisions in order to improve your life. In fact, not only does it make no sense, but it is pretty much impossible.
So what to do about this precious, limited resource known as willpower?
Save it by automating most of your decisions. Especially the important ones.
When you go food shopping, don’t buy a load of junk food as well as healthy food. If you only have healthy ingredients in, then you don’t have to make the choice between junk and health.
Line up your workout clothes on your floor the night before you are going to hit the gym or go for a morning run. Even the tiny obstacle of having to dig around for your clothes in the morning can be enough to put you off going altogether.
If you don’t trust yourself to make a good decision when the time comes, don’t put yourself in the position to make a bad decision either.
Leave the only option a beneficial one for you.
Attach new habits on to your current routine
Change is really difficult, everyone knows that.
If you have ever tried a crash course diet or workout routine that is completely different to anything that you have ever done, either in terms of variety or intensity, then it is likely that you didn’t stick with it for too long.
That is to be expected, of course, since humans aren’t too fond of change.
This is another classic case of having an environment that isn’t working for you. If the new environment is far different from anything that you are used to, then you are likely to rebound to the old environment fairly quickly.
That is why attaching new habits to your current routine and current environment is far more beneficial for ultimately creating your environment of success.
Wanting to learn a new language? Rather than cancel all of your evening plans and taking an intense course, it might be best to do 10 minutes after your daily cup of tea after lunch. Then repeat each day until it becomes a part of your everyday environment.
Referring back to the example from the previous section of getting out and lining up your clothes the night before your workout, perhaps you could always do this after brushing your teeth. Then keep doing it until every time you brush your teeth, you are automatically heading towards your wardrobe to get your clothes out. That is the ultimate power of a habit and a change in environment.
Here are a few other examples from James Clear’s blog:
- If you want to practice guitar more frequently, place your guitar stand in the middle of the living room.
- If you want to remember to send more thank-you notes, keep a stack of stationery on your desk.
- If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them in common locations around the house.
If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue a big part of your environment. The most persistent behaviors usually have multiple cues. Consider how many different ways a smoker could be prompted to pull out a cigarette: driving in the car, seeing a friend smoke, feeling stressed at work, and so on.
The same strategy can be employed for good habits. By sprinkling triggers throughout your surroundings, you increase the odds that you’ll think about your habit throughout the day. Make sure the best choice is the most obvious one. Making a better decision is easy and natural when the cues for good habits are right in front of you.
By gradually attaching new habits on to your current routine, your environment will change at a steady and long-lasting pace – both of which are essential for achieving any kind of success.
Use ‘Forcing Functions’ to your advantage
This is an idea that I first came across on this Medium post and I absolutely loved it.
It is a very similar thought process to the first idea, ‘Automate your decisions’.
While automating your decisions sets you up for success in the best possible way, there still tends to be a certain amount of willpower involved, even if it is just a small bit.
Even if you automate the decision of eating healthy by not buying any junk food, there is still always the temptation to get a takeaway instead one night.
The problem that I sometimes find is that even when it is just me vs me and I have set myself up for success in almost every conceivable way, there is still a part of me that is like ‘well…just this once.’ Funnily enough, when it comes to persuasion, especially with regards to something that we shouldn’t be doing, we are the easiest person to convince otherwise.
If you struggle with this, it might mean implementing some ‘forcing functions’ that takes the game from you vs you to the involvement of other people or other factors. This is sometimes the push that we need to create our desired environment for success. Some of the examples from the article include:
- High investment: buying an expensive course for example. It tends to be the case that when we spend a significant sum on something, we are more likely to stick with it than if we received it for free.
- Social pressure: making a public commitment to stay accountable is a great push. If your friends or family will never let you hear the end of it if you fail, then it is more likely you are going to do what you need to do to succeed.
- High difficulty: putting a decent-sized load on your plate to gain traction. This actually seems quite paradoxical but it is often the harder tasks that give us more motivation. I know personally that small, easy tasks often get pushed to the side for another date or I can sometimes have trouble really engaging in something that I find easy.
- Novelty: exposure to new ideas and environments. Routines and habits are great for constructing an environment for success but without exposure to the new and novelty, you will never know what you are missing and could implement yourself.